Eat Dirt.

Not just any dirt.. good healthy, nutritious dirt.  "Dirt" that is full of microorganisms, soil that is used to grow your food, your herbs, and contains within it the vitality of a diverse and broad ecosystem!  Remember those days where we played outside until we were summoned for dinner or bedtime?  Within those simple times, lies a secret to our health, and to our very well-being.  

What do our bodies and the soil of the Earth have in common?
They are both COVERED and TEEMING with Bacteria!


Our bodies have a complex and interdependent relationship with a broad spectrum of bacteria that covers us inside & out.  Approximately one to two pounds of our body weight is attributed to the bacterium that lives in and on our physical being.  Without it, our bodies would not be able to function - for we owe our existence to our bacterial ancestors - the very fabric of all life on earth.  So how did we go from a mutualistic relationship with bacteria, to one of waging war?

<<< The War on Bacteria >>>

Our current relationship with bacteria in western culture perceives it as the enemy, a problem child that is causing epidemics and sickening the general population.  As a result, antibiotics have become omnipresent in the western world, as they are a frequently prescribed medication with very little regulation.  In fact, antibiotics are no longer isolated to the doctors office or hospitals, but have also found their way into the industrial agriculture and overall food systems, leaching into the very landscape of the United States.  

"In 1942 the entire world's supply of chemical antibiotics was 32 litres of penicillin (isolated from mold.)  By 1999, in the United States alone, this figure had grown to an incredible 50 million pounds a year of scores of antibiotics, most of them now synthetic." - Stephen Harrod Buhner from "The Lost Language of Plants"

The transmission of resistant traits of bacteria among the environment, our bodies, water systems, and more have escalated in their resistance due to the widespread use of antibiotics.  Synthetically produced antibiotics and pharmaceuticals are designed to resist breakdown, to persist, so that they can carry out their metabolic regulatory activities without interference from the body (Buhner, 92).  

If these pharmaceuticals and antibiotic agents are not capable of being broken down without specialty equipment, then the systems present are not able to capture these chemicals that pass through our bodies and leach into the environment.  For example, recent studies show the effects of reproductive & endocrine disrupting chemicals on the reproductive organs in male fish, which are becoming genetically altered to exhibit higher levels of estrogen.   The increase in estrogens like premarin and synthetic hormones from birth control pills are one of the most commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals (Buhner, 95.)  In just a short amount of time, we have altered the biological state of our water systems, soil, air, and overall planetary health.  While the pervasive use of antibiotics, and other pharmaceuticals have become common practice, these synthetic chemical compounds come with a heavy cost.

<<< A Price to Pay, A Pivotal Shift >>>

So where does this leave us?  Despite the solemn state of affairs of the planet and our bodies, there is a pivotal place in which we can begin to shift.  The question is simple as can be - and that is how do we define health?  Science shows us that the earth and all life-forms on this planet are living & interconnected organisms, as opposed to a collection of unrelated parts.  

The American College of Preventative medicine claims their goal is "to promote, protect, and maintain health and well-being and to prevent disease, disability, and death."   Rather than orchestrating our health to be focused on the absence of disease, we can move beyond these sterile metrics and take a more holistic perspective.  Aaron Fisher, author of "Tea Medicine" so eloquently defines health as, "Medicine is anything that puts us in harmony with our highest self and all life on this earth."  

A less esoteric and more practical description of health can be defined as: medicine and health that embodies holistic measures, daily and preventative practices, and medicine that cultivates a healthy micro-biome in the body.  We need bacteria for many functions in our body such as, in our GI tract for our digestive and hormonal health, for the vagus nerve, which connects the brain & gut through bio-directional communication, and for so much more!  Bacteria helps our body maintain homeostasis, as well as  navigating it's way back to balance when experiencing dis-ease.

So for goodness sakes, put some dirt on ya'!  Granted, this article is not to say "eat dirt" and all your ailments will be solved.  Far from it!  The purpose here is to reflect on how we perceive bacteria, and the relationship we have with the bacteria and environment around us, as well as how we define health.  A statement such as "Eat Dirt" is a mental reminder, a mantra of sorts, to cultivate a healthy micro-biome in the body.  To have intimate relationships with your food, and your medicine.  By prioritizing healthy bacteria and biological diversity in our daily meals and herbal medicines, we are retraining our bodies to be more resilient and nourished.  We are reminding the body to know what optimized health feels like.  So why not give it a whirl?  The science behind it is truly mind-blowing, but the foundations remain simple:

  1. Play outside, get some dirt on ya.  Under your fingernails?  Even better.
  2. Prioritize a diet that supports healthy micro-biome in the body.  (Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, and pre//pro biotic foods.)  
  3. Eat a colorful and diverse group of vegetables - even better, support your local farmer in the process!  If you're in the Charleston area, check out these local farms for CSA options:
    Lowland Farms -http://lowlandfarms.com/
    Spade & Clover Farms - http://www.spadeandclovergardens.net/
  4. Ask yourself: How do you define Health?  What does health mean to you?  What does healthy feel like in your body?

Looking for more Resources?
Check out the personal websites of David Winston or Donald Yance if you would like to dive deeper into the concepts of healthy micro-biomes, bacteria, and gut health!

Bibliography
Buhner, Stephen Harrod. The Lost Language of Plants: The Ecological Importance of Plant Medicines to Life on Earth. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Pub., 2002. Print.

Fisher, Aaron. Tea Medicine. N.p.: CreateSpace Independent Platform, 2014. Print.

Winston, David. Untangling the Threads: Understanding Alzheimer's Disease and It's Prevention. North Carolina, Black Mountain. 3 June 2017. Medicines from the Earth Lecture Notes. Ashland: Herbal Education Services, 2017. 203-20. Print.

Yance, Donald. "The Vagus Nerve: A Two Way Connection." Medicine from the Earth Conference. North Carolina, Black Mountain. 3 June 2017. Medicines from the Earth Lecture Notes. Ashland: Herbal Education Services, 2017. 235-85. Print.

 

Kubota tractor snap at Lowland Farms, Johns Island, SC

Kubota tractor snap at Lowland Farms, Johns Island, SC

 

 

 

 

Sweet Sundays Garden Recipes

It's easy like Sunday Mornin' over here.. and what better way to revel in the sweetness than some good garden & herbal recipes?

Spring Garden Toast

Spring Garden Toast

I've been busy working away on the garden(s), writing an ebook which will be published this coming July, and so many other odds n' ends that enable a smoothly running business!  With so many elements and projects at play, it's easy to get wrapped up in the dizzying creation process and the fast building momentum.  

So, I decided to take a very slow morning, involving sitting in the garden, meditation practice, and diving into the many books surrounding my bed and work studio. I hurt my hand pretty bad last night, so I crafted an anti-inflammatory and pain reducing tea to accompany the spring garden toast -- an all around yummy breakfast!  DANG did my hand hurt bad last night, and of course a mindless and silly way of injuring myself... my first remedy was the darkest of dark chocolate & espresso ice cream.  I think the placebo effect was at play for the first five minutes, and then pain radiated back into my hand.  After having the satisfaction of having some ice cream in my system, I busted out my herbal first aid kit, added some ice, harvested herbs for the anti-inflammatory & pain relief tea  and sure enough, I feel good as new this morning!

Pain Relief Tea:

  • Turmeric
  • Chamomile flowers
  • Ginger root
  • Lemon Balm
  • Oatstraw
  • Honey

Spring Garden Toast Ingredients:

  • Unrefined Coconut oil
  • Tahini 
  • Banana
  • Borage Flowers
  • Chamomile Flowers
  • Local Honey

Easy peasy - simply slather on the ingredients starting with the coconut oil, and finish with a healthy drizzle of local honey.  If you're a honey bear like me, you might put a little extra...

If you would like to sign up for the Sacred Circle Herbal Apothecary newsletter to receive juicy tid bits on herbalism, self care practices, restorative agriculture & gardening information, and to be in the loop on workshops, events, and the like, sign up below!

~ Goodbye Pain, thank you Anti-inflammatory garden tea ~

~ Goodbye Pain, thank you Anti-inflammatory garden tea ~

The Bitter & The Sweet: Navigating the Spring Season

 

<<< Spring Season Wisdom >>>

Isn't it mind-shattering, the divine tempo in which nature is syncopated?  The rhythmic qualities of the seasons revealing and giving rise to specific botanical medicines that serve an ecological function, while simultaneously fine tuning our bodies.  

The rise of this spring season has revealed so much wisdom for me; this potent medicine allowed me to explore the process of becoming undone -- by exhaling and releasing the stagnancy of this winter, and many winters past -- and listening to my body in new and more intimate ways.  It taught me a deeper knowledge base and sense of trust and dependency upon the living ecology in this area.  This spring season has evoked within me, a state of primal contentment.  A knowing relationship, that extends past capitalism, past societal norms, deep into the primordial state of being.  A complex simplicity.

<< Organs Affected during the Spring Season >>

With the release of winter, comes the sharp birthing pangs of new blossoms, new opportunities, ideas, decision making, and paths to traverse down.  These harsh and abrupt awakenings that correspond with the spring season are mirrored in the body, via the activity of the liver and gallbladder.  Personally, my gallbladder was quite...um...peeved, to say the least.  How about yours?  Anger, irritability, excess acne, pain, frustration, nausea, all of these symptoms and more elude to an out of balance liver & gallbladder.   

The liver and gallbladder play a vital role to the immune system, and the overall wellbeing of the body, as they help to facilitate detoxification, create new blood cells, and in regards to the spring, help us to discard the "weightedness" of the winter season. To get a better idea of why these organs are most affected by the spring season, here are the listed functions of the liver & gallbladder, according to Giovanni Maciocia, author of The Foundations of Chinese Medicine:

FUNCTIONS OF THE GALLBLADDER:

  1. Stores bile, closely related to the liver
  2. Dependent upon liver, which ensures smooth flow of Qi
  3. Affected by Anger
  4. week gallbladder = timidity & lack of courage

FUNCTIONS OF THE LIVER:

  1. Responsible for our capacity for recovering energy & it's contributions to the body's resistance to exterior pathogenic factors.
  2. Blood storage & platelet production
  3. Overall planning & decision making capabilities
  4. Ensures smooth flow of Qi (blood, energy) as well as proper direction of Qi
  5. "Army General" of the body (decision making abilities)
  6. Origin of courage & resoluteness
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This new realm of pain had led me into an immediate descent of "hibernation mode," only having the energy to tend and nurture my body through the grievances and purification processes.  It was from there that I began to really study the living ecology around me with a new lens. 

For my entire life, I have prioritized a relationship with the living world around me - something one might call Biophilia, or the emotional bonding and affiliation with other life forms, such as plants, trees, and other living species (See Stephen Harrod Buhner's book "The Lost Language of Plants" to dive deeper into biophilia and biognosis)  Being taught this sacred dance, dependency, and reciprocity that can exist between humans and plants, has revealed some very potent lessons that I am truly honored to share.  In the form of words, as well as herbal remedies.

While working with these spring time plants, I created a host of remedies that helped me navigate and get through these painful growing pains (as well as TON of acupuncture!)  With that, birthed the idea of creating an herbal seasonal wellness kit, where folks had access to herbal remedies that helps the body transition smoothly.  The seasonal wellness kit embodies the herbal allies and remedies for one to navigate the turbulent times of the spring season, and to keep you feeling balanced, easeful, and grounded.  In it includes many seasons of wisdom and dedication to learning from the earth, and cultivating as well as wild crafting these various species.  You will find:

  1. Liver Tonic Tincture
  2. Anti Inflammatory Fire Tonic
  3. Radiant Heart Salve
  4. Headache Relief Tea
  5. Homegrown Smudge Stick (Gotta keep things fresh!)

All of these remedies work symbiotically with the liver and gallbladder organs, the immune and endocrine systems to help us adapt with the seasons.  They are also simultaneously providing us some "space" to do mental explorations, and to really hone in on what deserves our attention and focus.  What dreams, goals, ideas, business plans, do we choose to nurture, tend, and help facilitate into full bloom?

 

Harvesting Dock (Arctium lappa) and other "weeds" from Lowland Farms, on John's Island, SC for the Liver Tonic Tincture.

Harvesting Dock (Arctium lappa) and other "weeds" from Lowland Farms, on John's Island, SC for the Liver Tonic Tincture.

 

< My Call to Action is This >

The spring season can be a lot, a whirl wind of chaos, dizzying excitement, and surprising boughs of grief -- if we allow ourselves to feel that.  Surrendering to the process of the spring season is no easy task, if you really allow yourself to experience it.  Now, this is not to say we must get attached and fixated on what is occurring within the body, but we MUST LISTEN, and have the capacity to receive those messages, receive help.  

Listen.

That is my call to action - to listen to our bodies more deeply.  Because there is so much wisdom that comes from the communication between the body, mind, and the living ecology.  It is waiting, eager, and ready to support and facilitate us to more evolved states of our personhood.  


The Bitter and the sweet. The bitter of the spring prepares us - the chemicals and gut flora in our GI tract, our liver and gallbladder, our minds, to receive the abundance of spring. To be humbled by it all - making that great big birthing bloom digestible. 

The bitter tonics that arise from the earth such as dandelion, chickweed, purslane, burdock, crimson clover, and so much more, allowing us to shed more layers to become anew. 


Have you felt this personally, in your body, your spirit?  Comment below, or you can order your own seasonal wellness kit if you would like to receive some potent remedies to help nourish your liver, gallbladder, body, and mind.

Blessings & Abundance always,

Alexandra

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Product Life Cycle Analysis: The Anti-Inflammatory Salve

<<< Transparency >>>

When researching various products on the market, it's easy to see that there is a significant amount of greenwashing going on!  I'm always looking to better understand the story behind a company's product, why they created it, where they made it, where the ingredients are sourced from, and the tonality or "soul" behind it all.

Finding clarity in an otherwise opaque market and my love & passion for herbalism and community access to health care and preventative medicine practices have inspired me to create a video series. The series will explore the behind the scenes of the creation process for the herbal remedies of Sacred Circle Herbal Apothecary.  I am so excited to start this series, and to show you the back story on the creation of each product, why it was made, and how resources are gathered and incorporated into the various herbal remedies!

My intention for these videos and blog posts are to highlight the community that is required to produce such remedies, how seasonality determines the type of remedy and facilitates the production process, farming and restorative agricultural practices to cultivate the herbs, and the interconnectedness and intimate relationship between humans and the surrounding environment.  This will be a multi-media series, accompanied with videos, pictures, and little tid bits about the entirety of the cradle - cradle perspective for each remedy.

Today, I am excited to share the journey of the Anti-Inflammatory Salve with you all!
Check out the video below to get an idea of the growing practices necessary to make the salve!

The Anti-Inflammatory Salve was originally birthed from observing the inflammatory patterns that would arise in my body, and in those around me.  At the time, I was engaging in a lot of physical work relating to farming, gardening, and urban farming for the College and decided to create a remedy that served as a tool to ease and relieve those inflammatory patterns. 

Product Sourcing List:

  1.  Compost // Soil : home cultivated!  
    1. Fish emulsion (Neptunes Harvest) 
    2. worm castings (home set up!)
    3. manure (local carriage company in town, chicken manure, mushroom compost)
       
  2. Chamomile: 
    a.  Seeds: Bountiful Gardens Seed Company
    b.  Starts: Sea Island Savory Nursery, Johns Island, SC
     
  3. Beeswax: Camp Hill Biodynamic Farm, Kimberton, PA http://www.camphillkimberton.org/
     
  4. Turmeric: Finca Bona Fide (Friends permaculture farm on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua) http://projectbonafide.com/
     
  5. Essential Oils -- Rose, Orange, Lavender: Aura Cacia https://www.auracacia.com/

Self Care & Creativity in the Presence of Oppression


We're living in some trying times.

Political duress, the constant inundation of news and social media reporting on oppressive policies being enacted, all the while finding ourselves in the sixth extinction and global climate change...phew!...How is your nervous system holding up these days?  Something's gotta give!  
 

The art of giving and receiving can be quite challenging during this period of time.  Many of us may find ourselves at the seat of various forms of oppression, trying to navigate the world with an open heart, while the messages we receive back tell us to shrink and close up.  That we are not safe in our bodies, corroding any sense of trust in our political or governmental systems.  Despite the varying degrees of oppression being implemented in society, it is our responsibility as individuals to care for our emotional, mental, physical, and even spiritual well-being.  Especially if one has been gifted with a certain set of privileges in society, we must remain accountable in the ways that we walk upon this earth, and how we engage with others in our communities.  

This is not to embrace a "woe is me" attitude, and to settle into apathy or complacency, allowing hopelessness to create your own isolated hibernation.  No.  I would like to make the distinction that self care is an absolute MUST when we are going out and taking direct action, whether that be through protest, calling representatives, grassroots organizing, running a community garden - there are endless ways in which we can show up and really harness our strengths and skill sets to make positive impacts.  Needless to say, self care is a necessary component to being an activist, and when "resisting" or creating a new inclusive narrative within a community.  

Caring for oneself is a deeply restorative act, which can also be infused into the way that we show up in our communities as an activist.  The way that we tend to our inner conflicts and handle the oppressive limiting beliefs we tell ourselves is a direct reflection of how we show up in the outer world.  We can learn to refine how we show up in the world around us by cultivating more deeply restorative and revitalizing practices that are working to boost our immune systems, and to strengthen our bodies, minds, and hearts.   So when a situation is asking for conflict resolution, or to strengthen relationships in our community for collaborative initiatives - these can all be fueled and guided by the ways that we show up for ourselves via these self care practices.

So, how can we use self care as a tool kit to deal with oppression?

Self care practices are a must when our nervous systems and bodies are being compromised.  If we are to be strong and resilient change agents, living fully and feeling confident and safe in our bodies, then we must develop the rituals that feed our internal fire - to tend to all the spaces that have grown tired or gone bereft.  Self care may take many different forms, depending on one's needs, but the key word defining these practices are Nourish.  It is also important to note that self care practices do not have to be "elitist" or even selfish - as they can be as simple as setting aside 5 minutes to sit in a chair and breath from your belly.   It is a human right to be able to practice self care and love oneself.  

These practices may look like drenching your body with anti-oxidants to address free radicals and to slow the stress response cycles in the body.  It may look like a delicious evening date between you, your bath tub, a good read and some tea.  It may look like saying no and establishing healthy boundaries among your interpersonal relationships.  It may be having a courageous heart to stand within your sovereignty and making self honoring choices, in the midst of oppression.  That sound overwhelming to you at the moment?  How about a home cooked meal instead?  Regardless of your specific methods in cultivating a self care practice, it is an intimate way to infuse your body and whole being with self love - to take time creating a safe space for the body and mind to process and let things "run their course" through your system.   The goal being to incorporate this act into your daily habits, thereby becoming a ritual of your daily patterns!

A Note On Creativity ~
Alright, all this self care talk is great, but where does creativity fit into all of this?

Creativity is directly linked to our sexuality, it is our life blood, and is a product of surrendering to the internal forces within that are seeking to be expressed.  Allowing time and space for creative projects and endeavors help to cultivate a sense of vitality in the body and mind.  It is an act of commitment - a radical decision to listen to the inner musings of your heart and to release them into a physical form.  Harnessing the creative process in our own ways helps to empower not only us as individuals, but sends a message to those around you that they too are capable of investing in their own creative processes.  That creative endeavors are valued, and very much needed during these challenging times!  Sharing this intimate expression as a community helps to cultivate resilience and respect, diversity in perspective, and is a bold statement in remaining confident while making oneself vulnerable.  For me, poetry and writing are one form of creative expression that truly feeds my soul and is inherently intertwined to my self care rituals.  I have included a photo below of one of my poems to hopefully invoke some of your own creative stirrings...

Some Juicy take-aways for self care amidst oppression:

1.  Identify some areas in your life or physical body that need nourishment.  Make a date for yourself, have some tea, and really think about where you're feeling drained or out of balance.

2.  Build Self care practices that are nourishing for you and can be easily integrated into your daily habits.  The goal here is to make this easy on yourself!  Keep it simple.  If you over commit, it is easy to concretize, procrastinate, or fail to follow through if you have a lengthy list ahead of you.

3.  Self care can be whatever you desire - no matter what your racial, or socio-economic status is in society.  Self care and self love is an inherent human right.  Period.

4.  Take time to feed your creative soul!  Listen to those internal musings that have been buzzing around.  What limiting beliefs have you been oppressing yourself with?  Name them, call them out, write a list of them, burn it!  Start from a clean slate - the more you invest and practice self care, the more momentum that is built and helps you cultivate an intimate, thriving, sensual, and lively relationship with your creative process.

I hope these words serve as a mere reminder that YOU are an empowered individual, and deserve to be treated with love and respect.  That your body is appreciated, valued, and is so very needed to help transform ourselves and our communities.

In love and restoration,

Alexandra